Clockwork Heart

by Dru Pagliassotti

Reviewed by Adam Armstrong

With all of our technological advances we are still left scratching our heads when it comes to interacting with one another. Human knowledge doubles every 12 months*. We have statistics to back up everything, though we generally ignore them if they go against what we believe. What if society was built around analyzing and using the data that we are always collecting? Would we be better off or would the same old problems keep cropping up?

Taya is an Icarus. She soars above the city of Ondinium delivering messages, sort of like a human carrier pigeon. One day as she is resting above the city an explosion rips her out of her thoughts and she dives in to save the passengers on a wireferry. Right off the bat Pagliassotti throws us into her the world she created without long explanations of it or its mechanics. We are forced to learn on our feet and it wouldn't hurt for other sci-fi/fantasy/steampunk writers to take note.

Taya ends up saving the life of an exalted and her child. She is given a hero's treatment and ends up meeting one of the youngest exalted to hold office, Alister, and his brother, Cristof, who has given up his life as an exalted to live among the people. Taya finds herself attracted to both the charming Alister and the cold Cristof. But one of them is not what he appears. Taya finds herself swept up in a plot that could disrupt the Great Engine. The Great Engine is a giant analytical machine that is the heart of Ondinium; all of the important decisions are made off of the Great Engine's programs. But who is trying to help her and who is trying to kill her?

As I said, the novel starts of with a bang and runs along smoothly at first. Pagliassotti doesn't waste words in setting everything up but as soon as the brothers are introduced the novel starts to jerk and bump along. The brothers are supposed to be opposites: Alister is the smooth, handsome politician and Cristof is the ugly, mean mechanic. However this point is made over and over again. I'm not sure if it is an attempt to foreshadow or distract, but it doesn't work well either way. 

The world is very interesting and we are allowed to explore it at our own pace as clues and descriptions are slowly dripped in. Everything in this steampunk world has an explanation as to why it's there and how it works. There are too many speculative novels out there where things happen just because, or that don't bother with explanations because "it's magic." The explanations are handled beautifully. I never felt jerked out of the book when characters were going over something. 

The biggest problem I saw with the book is that the main story and climax happen about 50-70 pages away from the end. Everything is basically wrapped up and resolved with the main conflict yet the books continues on with a secondary problem. It seems an odd choice, unless the secondary plot was opening up the next book. But even then the order could have been flipped without affecting the next book in the series.

Overall, not a bad little book. It is a little rough around the edges but it will take you to an interesting new world with relatable characters. 

*Schiling, D.R. (2013, April 19) Knowledge Doubling Every 12 Months, Soon to be Every 12 Hours.